How To Tell If Chicken Is Bad: Is Your Chicken Looking Suspicious?

Of all the meats out there, chicken is definitely the most popular around the globe.

Some do not like beef, and some cannot eat veal, but chicken is everyone’s favorite due to the neutral taste that you can spice up to your liking.

I am no exception. 🙂

In my house, we eat chicken at least three times a week. We prepare it so often that I thought I knew everything I need to know about it in order to prepare it safely and make it mouthwatering. 

As I said, I only thought so. 🙁

One night, after dinner, we suddenly started to feel sick. One by one we had to visit the toilet, and at some point, it became too crowded, and we decided to visit the hospital, just in case.

The first thing doctor asked is what we had for dinner that night, and as soon as we said it had been the chicken his face lit up!

He might as well yelled “Eureka!”, although he did not, as he was a rather composed old man, but we could all see that he had no more dilemmas regarding what had caused our troubles. 

Neither did we - it was definitely the chicken.

As I was the one who prepared it and served it to my family, I felt a sudden burst of guilt.

Moreover, I was quite puzzled. How did I not see that chicken was bad?

Feeling that such thing must never happen again, I have decided to find all the existing information on how to tell if the chicken is bad.

So help me God, my family will never be sick again due to my cooking, not if I can help it!

How to tell if chicken is bad

I hope you have never eaten food that has gone bad (knocks on wood), not only because you would then probably already know everything I am about to discuss, but because that would mean that you had felt sick as much as I had when it happened to me, and I would not wish that to my worst enemy.

However, I assume that at some point in your life you have come in touch with some rotten food and knew by the look or the smell of it that you need to toss it out.

It is especially disappointing when this realization happens after you have spent your precious time to cook that food.

After the whole procedure that sometimes takes more than an hour, it is quite sad to say farewell to your perfectly seasoned meal and let the garbage can lid close down on it.

It is even more disappointing to have to start all over again and prepare another meal while your kids keep asking Is it done yet?.

Believe me, I have been there and done that!

Imagine that this happens when your guests are about to arrive - innocent and hungry, awaiting your famous culinary specialties! Chills are coming down my spine just at the thought of that.

If you want to avoid these horrid scenarios, you should make sure that your chicken is fresh before you turn it into one of your personal culinary wonders.

In this way you will save yourself time and effort you would otherwise have to invest in starting from a scratch, but also preserve the health of your loved ones. I will help you with a detailed guide on how to tell if the chicken is suspicious.

If, however, you are at a restaurant, and you are served chicken that does not seem fresh, my guide will also include all the warning signs you should recognize as to avoid eating cooked chicken that has gone bad as well.

Frozen chicken

Knowing that chicken easily goes bad, most of us freeze it thinking that it is the safest way to store it, and it is. However, it is not 100% safe, as frozen chicken can sometimes cause problems as well.

  • In order to avoid this, as soon as you take your chicken out of the freezer and unwrap it you should smell it to make sure it does not smell unpleasant.
  • If you cannot detect any suspicious odors, let it thaw and then touch it to see if there is a layer of slime covering its surface. If there is, your fingers will feel sticky.
  • Changes in color are also indicative of chicken going bad. If you notice that your frozen chicken has turned unusually dark or pale, you should also be extra careful as that too is often sign that it is not good to eat anymore.

If any of these warning signs are detected, throw the chicken away without any regrets - it is better than risking becoming sick!

Raw chicken

Raw chicken carries the greatest risk as stores sometimes keep it displayed unproperly or for too long. This means that you can actually buy chicken meat that has already gone bad.

To avoid such a mistake, look for the following warning signs:


  • "Best by" date is the first thing you should check. Stores sometimes forget to remove the expired products right away, and although this happens seldom, you should be careful nonetheless. Moreover, I do not recommend buying chicken too close to the expiration date as it might already be spoiled too. The safest way to go is to buy chicken that is put on the shelf that same day, or at least recently.
  • The color is once again an important factor when determining if your chicken is good. The best color is bright pink. If you notice some gray shades, be sure to avoid it altogether.
  • Smelling the chicken would be the safest way to determine any problems. Unfortunately, you cannot smell it in the store (have to actually buy it and take it home before you do it). This means that you might waste your money, but, luckily, you can still preserve your health which is far more precious.
  • Strong, overwhelming odor is a definite “No-No” and a sure sign that your chicken has gone off. Fresh chicken has an almost undetectable chicken odor.
  • If you are still not sure that your chicken is safe to cook, touch it to make sure it is not slimy or sticky. This is the final test that will help you determine whether or not to proceed with cooking. The chicken must be a bit slippery, but mucus is a sure sign of bacteria.

Cooked chicken

If you have not cooked the chicken yourself, there are still ways to make sure it is good to eat. The warning signs are quite similar and thus the procedure too.

  • Using your sense of smell is once again the safest way to go (I just hope you won’t have a runny or stuffed nose!) Even when cooked, the chicken gone bad will still have a strong, distinctive odor similar to that of rotten eggs. Doesn’t sound yummy at all, right?
  • Observing the color of the cooked chicken meat is the next logical step. Cut a piece and determine the color - if its white, enjoy your meal! If on the other hand, the color is gray, you are probably going to stay hungry!
  • I guess that it is quite unlikely to happen, but you should still check for any signs of mold. Green or black spots are quite easy to see and tell you that your chicken is more than ready to end up in the trash can.

Even when all the previous signs are missing, and your chicken is looking quite fresh, you should taste it carefully.

Your first bite should always be a small one, and you should not swallow it quickly but rather keep it in your mouth for a while to feel the taste. If it tastes funny or a bit rancid, do not eat it.

Storing the chicken the right way

When it comes to eating the chicken at a restaurant or at your friend’s house, you have a limited awareness of what happens to it before it reaches your table.

However, you are the master of your kitchen, and you are responsible that any meal that goes out of it is not only delicious but also safe to eat.

To avoid any problems, the first thing you should do is make sure everything is stored properly.

When it comes to chicken, this is even more important since chicken generally has a short shelf life

When you buy the chicken try to take it home and refrigerate it as soon as possible. 

Do not make too many stops on your way home, especially on a hot day as the chicken is quite sensitive to heat and can go bad rather quickly.

As soon as you arrive, put the chicken in the refrigerator

You can leave it there for about one to three days depending on how fresh it was when you bought it. After the already mentioned unpleasant event (to say it mildly), I avoid storing chicken altogether and rather prepare it the same day, but it is up to you!

A safer option is to freeze it immediately and then take it out a few hours before you intend to cook it. However, there are downsides to this method as well.

Namely, your chicken will not taste the same after you take it out of the freezer.

Thawed chicken inevitably feels dry and looses that fresh smell we all enjoy so much (or at least all of my family members). The longer you keep it frozen, the worse it will taste.

If you have any leftovers, you should also refrigerate them right away.

I do not recommend reheating the chicken, as it might develop a funny smell.

In fact, the protein composition of the chicken meat changes when cold, and when reheated it can even cause digestive troubles. For this reason, rather eat it cold or use it for a chicken salad or a chicken sandwich.


My final thoughts

If you have any reasonable doubts that your chicken is bad, do not hesitate to get rid of it.

Let my negative experience be a warning, chicken gone bad can make you seriously ill! 

Bear in mind that your children are at the greatest risk due to their undeveloped immune system.

Knowing all that I know now, I enjoy my chicken culinary specialties even more as I am sure that they will not cost me my health.

You should memorize it all too and love your chicken again even if it has hurt you before!

Barbara Whitney
 

For the last 20 years, I’ve been cooking, preparing, researching, and gathering recipes, tools, and knowledge about food and the way we prepare it. Raising two lively boys and spoiling one great husband later, it’s safe to say that I’ve optimized my kitchen to deliver the best possible meal, no matter the occasion.

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